The 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team represented the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season. The team was led by 25th-year head coach Tom Osborne and played their home games in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers competed as members of the Big 12 Conference in the league's second year of existence.
The Cornhuskers compiled a perfect 13–0 record and claimed their third national championship in four years. Nebraska was ranked first in the final Coaches Poll of the year, but was ranked second behind Michigan (also undefeated, at 12–0) in the final AP Poll. Of the 20 official championship selectors designated by the NCAA, 13 selected Nebraska as national champions, six selected Michigan, and one declared them co-champions. It remains one of the most hotly contested national championship debates in college football history.
Nebraska secured their first Big 12 Conference championship by defeating Texas A&M by a score of 54–15 in the Big 12 Championship Game. Nebraska had been upset by Texas in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game in 1996. The season ended with a 42–17 victory over No. 3 Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl for their fourth consecutive major bowl victory.
The Nebraska offense, which led the country in scoring, was led by quarterback Scott Frost and running back Ahman Green. Frost became just the tenth player in college football history to both pass and run for 1,000 yards. Green finished second in the country in rushing yards with 1,877 yards, and tied for third in touchdowns with 22. Offensive lineman Aaron Taylor was named a consensus All-American and was the recipient of the Outland Trophy. The Cornhusker defense was anchored by All-American defensive linemen Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom, winner of the Lombardi Award.
Head coach Tom Osborne announced after the regular season that the Orange Bowl would be his final game as head coach. He retired as Nebraska's all-time winningest coach, and was sixth in wins all-time in major college football history at the time of his retirement.
Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne announced his retirement just prior to the 1998 Orange bowl, capping a remarkable career of success. The #2 Cornhuskers handily defeated the #3 Tennessee Volunteers 42-17, while #1 Michigan defeated #7 Washington State team 21-16. In postgame coverage on the field, Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost openly lobbied Coaches Poll voters for support based on performance comparisons between Nebraska and Michigan, also mentioning Osborne's retirement. The voters apparently agreed, as Nebraska was ranked #1 in the final Coaches Poll, while Michigan retained their pre-bowl #1 ranking in the AP Poll, creating a split National Championship. The 1997 Huskers set an NCAA record that still stands by scoring an average of 5.5 rushing touchdowns per game (66 rushing touchdowns in twelve games, not including the six scored in the Orange Bowl).
|Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year
|All-America 1st team
||Jason Peter, Aaron Taylor, Grant Wistrom
|All-America 2nd team
|All-America 3rd team
|All-Big 12 1st team
||Eric Anderson, Mike Brown, Ralph Brown, Scott Frost, Ahman Green, Jason Peter, Aaron Taylor, Grant Wistrom
|All-Big 12 2nd team
|All-Big 12 3rd team
||Josh Heskew, Chad Kelsay, Eric Warfield, Jon Zatechka
|All-Big 12 honorable mention
||Kris Brown, Jesse Kosch, Joel Makovicka, Fred Pollack, Mike Rucker, Jason Wiltz
NFL and pro playersEdit
The following Nebraska players who participated in the 1997 season later moved on to the next level and joined a professional or semi-pro team as draftees or free agents.